Eating local and seasonal food is better for your health, the environment and, of course, your taste buds.
They love Mediterranean flavours - from Italy's garlic, basil and olive-oil soaked approach to the cumin-scented, smokier versions of the Med's eastern reaches. But this family of vegetable originated further east in Asia, and are a great foil for all sorts of spices as well as coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with the smaller offering more flavour. Choose the firmest, shiniest ones you can find.
The sweet, earthy, rootsy flavours of roasted beets are a world away from the eye-watering pickled beetroot from a jar. Look for taut, shiny-skinned bulbs; the freshest bunches will be bristling with perky leaves that are delicious sautéed or braised. Roast the roots whole, sliced or in wedges with garlic, rosemary and thyme, either mixed with other sweet root veg or for tart toppings or goats' cheese salads.
Fennel's aniseed notes can divide people, but the crisp flesh of the bulb itself is more subtle than the robust seeds or feathery leaves. Look for tight, blemish-free bulbs with bushy foliage rather than fibrous bulbs that are drying out. Sliced thinly they offer a celery-like crunch to salads, or try sweating off with onion for a fragrant base for seafood soup or risotto.
One of autumn's great delicacies, fresh figs should be chosen and handled with care. Buy the ripest you can find, flushed with colour and soft to touch. Once sliced open to reveal their blush-pink heart, fresh figs can turn any simple plate of cured meats or salty cheese and peppery leaves into a party. Try slicing into tarts with goats' cheese and caramelised red onions, or onto home-made pizza with mozzarella, prosciutto and rocket.
Who knew a cousin of the cabbage could become so hip? From Brooklyn to Berlin they hail this powerhouse vegetable, whether roasted with chilli for a crunchy snack or blitzed into a smoothie to mainline all those nutrients. Younger tender leaves can be torn from their stem and wilted or sautéed with garlic and lemon, while older leaves work in everything from pasta and pies, to ragout and rustic soups, or with punchy chorizo and tomato-based sauces.
A perfectly ripe pear needs little to make its juicy flesh sing: try crunchy walnuts, bitter chicory, salty blue cheese or umami-rich cured ham. But underripe pears can be easily coaxed into service, whether baked in a tarte tatin or crumble (maybe with blackberries, almonds or hazelnuts) or poached in red wine with whole spices (think star anise, cinnamon, cloves) to serve in savoury salads.
Native or rock, that is the question when it comes to Irish oysters. September heralds the start of the season for the native oyster so famously celebrated along the west coast of Ireland. Besides being smaller, flatter and rounder than the rock (gigas) oyster farmed in places such as Carlingford year-round, gourmands say that native oysters are sweeter and more complex in flavour.
Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween, you know. If treated right this relative of the squash has lots more to offer in the kitchen than atmospheric seasonal lighting. The sweet orange flesh works well in soup or risotto seasoned with sage, rosemary or thyme or finished with pancetta and sour cream, while its affinity with ginger and chilli make it a flavoursome base for coconut-based curries.